Thursday, March 27, 2014

NEW RECIPE: Cilantro Basa Soup

© Constantine William Spyrou

Oh, man, it has been way too long since I made a recipe. The business of school (and a dying laptop) have been hampering me from getting recipes up for the past month, but now I'm back and ready to do a lot more! This is actually a recipe I came up with a few weeks ago, but just haven't gotten around to posting up here. 

The goal of this dish was to make a dish that could bring out the flavor of cilantro as much as possible. Not just in the freshness of the leaves, but also through the warmth of its seeds (better known as coriander) and the flavor of the stems. Combining this balance together meant I needed a very mild dish to back up the cilantro and let it take center stage. 

I chose to use soup as the vehicle because its quick to make and is extremely versatile in flavor. Soups can be mild, like chicken noodle soup or minestrone, or bold in flavor, such as with chili. This paritcular dish is going to resemble a Vietnamese pho, but have a little more complexity flavor and some fusion notes. 

To go with the cilantro, I chose basa, which is an extremely mild fish I got acquainted with in the dining commons last year. Combining this with a homemade vegetable stock and infusing some mild flavors into the stock should help create a complex backdrop to bring cilantro to the forefront of the dish. 

Recipe serves up to 4 people.

For the Vegetable Stock:

1 white onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic
2 cups cilantro stems
1/2 cup lemongrass, chopped
1/4 black peppercorns, uncracked (to keep the flavor from overpowering the cilantro)
Salt to taste

For the Soup:

1 pound basa fish filets, sliced into 4 ounce portions (If you can't get basa, other mild fish like pollock or cod work great for this)
Salt and ground coriander seed to season the fish
2 cups enoki mushrooms
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves, unchopped
1/4 cup banana peppers, diced
Juice of 1 lime


1. Prepare the vegetable stock by filling a 6-7 quart pot about three-fourths of the way up with water. Add in your vegetables, garlic, cilantro stems, lemongrass, and black peppercorns. Bring the mixture to a boil, and let cook for about 40 minutes. Strain the stock once it is done, then return to the heat and let it get hot again to serve.

2. Lightly season your filets of basa fish with salt and coriander. Add some vegetable oil (any other neutral-flavored oil works here) to a frying pan on medium heat. Cook the basa filets for 2 minutes on each side. Set aside once cooked, taking care not to break up the fish.

3. In 4 serving bowls, place a bunch of enoki mushrooms and some of the banana peppers on the bottom. Add a couple of ladles of the stock into the bowls, then add in about a fourth of the juice from your lime into each bowl. Place the fish over the broth, and finish off by garnish the plate with plenty of cilantro leaves.

This dish gives you the ability to taste cilantro in three different ways - from the richness of the stock, the deep aromaticity from the fish, and the freshness of the leaves. Tasting the balance between these three will definitely be something to enjoy!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

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